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New AAJ Report Highlights the Need to Protect the Last Line of Defense for Servicemembers and Veterans

May 22,2018

Washington, DC — More than two million men and women selflessly serve in the U.S. military. Despite the extreme sacrifices they make for their country, they are often exploited, provided inadequate health care, exposed to toxic substances, and denied the same legal protections as civilians. The latest report released today by the American Association for Justice (AAJ), Fighting for Those Who Fight for Us: Protecting the Rights of Servicemembers and Veterans, explores the many ways our country has failed to protect servicemembers and veterans from dangerous products and services. In the pursuit for justice, the courts have served as the last line of defense for the brave men and women who serve as our country’s first line of defense.

“All Americans deserve a fair path to justice when they have been illegally fired, foreclosed upon, or scammed by unscrupulous actors,” said Kathleen Nastri, President of AAJ. “Unfortunately, servicemembers and veterans who have risked their lives to defend our Constitution are being denied the very rights they’ve fought to protect. The treatment highlighted in this report shows how our country has failed to ensure access to justice for our servicemembers. We as a nation have to do better.”

Servicemembers and their families are uniquely vulnerable to predatory schemes and unemployment. That is why laws including the Military Lending Act, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act were enacted to protect the financial security and legal rights of servicemembers and veterans. However, corporate bad actors have found a way to work around prohibitions on the foreclosure of a servicemember’s home or the firing of a soldier for being deployed – forced arbitration. In arbitration, servicemembers are forced out of court and into a rigged, secretive process where there is no jury, no discovery, no legal precedent, and no appeal. Corporations’ pervasive use of forced arbitration clauses in financial contracts and employee handbooks has increasingly left servicemembers and veterans unable to enforce their rights.

The injustice to servicemembers and veterans doesn’t stop there. Because of a more than a half-century old U.S. Supreme Court decision, known as the Feres doctrine, active duty members of the armed services are not able to hold the government accountable for non-combat related injuries. This has come to include injuries or death caused by negligence in military hospitals. Under the Feres doctrine, servicemembers are deprived protections awarded to all other citizens.

Nastri concluded, “Until Congress acts to restore the rights of the men and women who serve in our nation’s military, we as attorneys will continue to stand to defend those who have honorably served to defend us.”

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